Evidence in Print Waste

I recently shared some images of a 16th century printed book that is the lab for full treatment and I have since uncovered some additional information about the binding. As previously mentioned, the book was not in good working order when it was acquired, looking more like something left behind in the mines of Moria than a volume that you would be served in the reading room.

With so much water damage and loss to the covering materials, it was clear in my examination that the remains of multiple bindings exist on the wooden boards. The outer-most covering is a “quarter-style” strip of brown leather (both adhered and nailed to the boards) and block printed, blue paper sides. Underneath that first layer are wide leather corners and a brown or purple paste paper siding-up the boards.

The pastedowns have several layers of paper with both manuscript and print faintly visible underneath. The inner-most layers of covering material were adhered with a thick layer of hide glue, which has begun to fail either through age or the book’s exposure to moisture.  This made it possible to mechanically lift all the layers of pastedown away from the wooden board in one piece, revealing  the print waste.

I was surprised to see a New York newspaper from the late 1700s, especially since the text was printed in Frankfurt some 200 years prior. The date at the top left was slightly obscured by minor losses and the remnants of fanned-out sewing supports, adhered to the interior of the front board. Luckily the full run of The Daily Advertiser has been digitized and is freely available through America’s Historical Newspapers, so I was able to look for dates in 1786  ending in “4” that occurred on a Wednesday and locate the issue.

(1786, June 14). Daily Advertiser, II (405), p. [1]. Available from Readex: America’s Historical Newspapers.

I was able to repeat the process for the lower board and that pastedown actually includes the lower half of the same printed sheet. I would not have been able to identify it so quickly without a digital image of the full newspaper.

The print waste in this binding is a fascinating find on a number of levels. I will note that this particular newspaper is not uncommon, with many libraries holding copies; however, the advertisements printed on this page tell a number of stories. Many of the ads are focused on shipping, with cargo ships for sale and others for hire. There are advertisements for Canadian furs, Irish linen, glassware, and iron goods from England. My favorite is the notice describing a large reward for the perpetrators of a robbery or a smaller one for just the return of the stolen goods. But the darkest parts of our history are represented here as well: ships traveling from Barbados or Antigua carrying sugar and rum, redemptioner servants and slaves described as “healthy” and offered for sale.

We don’t have much information about provenance of this book, but the presence of this newspaper used as binding material gives us clues about when and where at least one of its many repair and rebinding campaigns may have occurred.  This important evidence will be stabilized and retained as part of the conservation treatment.

Things Come Apart–On Purpose

Occasionally we are asked to disbind books. Sometimes that is an easy task, but when it comes to library-bound serials from the mid 1980’s it isn’t so easy.

Library binding is a specific process, there is even a NISO Standard for it. It’s a tough, made-to-last binding that includes sewing signatures around sawn-in cords, gluing the spine and applying a heavy spine lining, and creating a cover of heavy boards and durable buckram cloth. I love library bindings, they are indestructible by design and have a utilitarian-ness about them.

But when you have to take one apart it can be challenging, and time consuming. Cutting the threads and carefully cutting through the spine lining between issues takes patience. There is always some damage that must be repaired later. The paper scarfs, or your knife slips and cuts the outer folio.

Issue by issue I take it apart. I see the small knots in the thread where the person who sewed this added a new piece so she could keep going. It took time to bind this, and it was probably one of a thousand books that she bound that year.

The evidence of her hand is a reminder that a skilled trades person put this together. Her sewing is still tight. She made that small knot, trimmed it carefully, and kept going until she had a three-inch thick volume sewn together, ready for casing in.  Taking this apart is a reminder that not everything we do in Conservation is permanent. Sometimes we undo hours of care and labor. I honor the labor that it took to create this volume, even as I take it apart, smiling at each small knot I come across.

What Comes Out in the Wash

This 1546 German translation of Pedanius Dioscorides‘ pharmacopeia, titled Kreutterbuch (literally “plant book”), has been through quite a lot.

Pulled textblock, before any treatment The sewing of the existing binding was broken, the extensive paper repairs at the gutter have been eaten through by insects, many of the leaves are detached, and it has extensive staining from water damage. Pictured above is the pulled textblock, with each section separated by wide paper flags to help me keep everything organized.

Stained leaves before aqueous treatmentWashing can be beneficial for paper in this condition by reducing staining, removing harmful products of degradation, and improving pliability of the sheet. The benefits of aqueous treatment come with a lot of risks, though. In addition to removing unwanted substances, washing can extract the original sizing. The sheet’s dimensions, surface texture, and color can be altered as well. Washing can adversely affect the inks and other applied media, so extensive testing ahead of time is essential for determining what will and won’t come out in the wash. The same leaves looking visibly brighter after washing

After lots of discussion with the curators and spot testing, the decision was made to move forward with washing this book. The pages were vacuumed and surface cleaned to remove any soiling on the surface. After a series of baths in preconditioned deionized water, there is a significant reduction in staining and much improved legibility of the text. While in the bath, it is also very easy to remove the broken paper guards at the spine edges/folds to allow for new paper guards prior to rebinding.

 

A Sticky Situation

Sticky notes.  We know they are useful for conveying information…

book with sticky note on front cover
I think they buried the lede with this sticky note.

They can be good for taking notes…

Book pages with sticky notes
Thank you for not actually writing in our books….maybe?

But they can stain and leave adhesive residue…

Sticky note ink bleed
Not a traditional method of edge painting.

The dyes are also not particularly stable…

book with sticky notes
Sun damaged sticky note. Exactly how long have these been in here?

Although some sticky notes are dang cute…they really can damage paper by bleeding onto the text block, leaving behind a sticky residue, or causing tears in  brittle paper when they are removed.

cat themed sticky note
We removed this purrrfect little sticky note from a book this week.

So please, if you use sticky notes in library books, please remove them as soon as you are finished with the book. That will reduce the damage down the road.

 

 

FY2021: By The Numbers

It’s annual statistics time! As you can imagine Covid-19 influenced our stats for this year.  I don’t think any of us anticipated we would spend the first few months of the fiscal year working exclusively from home, and when we did return it was on a staggered schedule to avoid too many people in the lab at the same time.  That said, we did get a lot done. While treatment numbers are down as expected, we did get a lot of training, conference attendance, and administrative work done from home.

FY2021 Statistics

409 Book repairs
503 Pamphlet bindings
0 Treatments: Other (objects, textiles, etc.)
410  Flat Paper repairs
1,293 Protective enclosures
300  Disaster recovery
2 Exhibit mounts
48 Hours in support of Exhibits (meetings, treatment, installation, etc.)
443 Digital preparation repairs
23.25 Hours in support of Digital Projects (meetings, consultations, handling, etc.)

41 % of production was for Special Collections
59 % of production was for Circulating Collections

62.2% of work was Level 1 [less than 15 minutes to complete;  1813 items]
34.2% of work was Level 2 [15 minutes – 2 hours to complete;  998 items]
3.2% of work was Level 3 [2 – 5 hours to complete;  94 items]
0.3% of work was Level 4 [more than 5 hours; 10 items]

This is the first year that we added a Level 4 treatment (5+ hours). This differs from the old ARL/ALA Preservation Statistics where Level 3 (3+ hours) was the longest hourly bucket you could put treatments into. We felt this didn’t give us enough of an idea of how very lengthy treatments fit in to our overall output.

Creating custom enclosures has always been a large percentage of our yearly output. This year the total percentage of work that were enclosures was 44%, very close to the historical percent average. With the Lilly Renovation Project ramping up again, we expect to see larger numbers in this category for the next couple of years.

Other Things We Did Last Year

It Takes a Village to Clean the Floors

This week was a very busy week in Conservation. We had the floors cleaned and sealed. “Easy enough,” you say? It literally took one week, a moving company, the flooring company, Facilities, Housekeeping, Facilities and Distribution Services, and of course a lot of work from Conservation staff.

Phase 1: Move half of all the things!

Before the equipment could be moved, lab staff had to shift all the books onto carts, label all the equipment and furniture, move sensitive equipment like the encapsulator, etc. Once that was done, the movers came and shifted half the lab to one end.

Half the lab is moved to allow for cleaning.

The fun part was uncovering the floors that have never seen light. This is what the cork looked like when it was installed in 2008!

The darker cork is not stained. The lighter color is from light exposure over the years.

Even with the light differences you can really see how the cleaning and sealing has improved the look of the floors. They feel so much better, too.

The cleaned and sealed floor (top of image) and the floor before cleaning (bottom of image).
Phase 2: Move all the things to the other side of the room!

Once the first half of the cork floors were cleaned, all the furniture and equipment had to move to the opposite side of the room.  We decided not to move heavy things like the two board shears and the flat files.

The board shear stands alone awaiting the floor cleaning.

Mid-week we helped move some paintings. We also worked on several projects that were not located in the lab including some work for the Lilly renovation  and helping in Technical Services with some boxing.

On the move.
Phase 3: Move all the things back, then move some more things!

Lastly, the floors in the store room and photo documentation room got cleaned. To facilitate that work we moved what we could out of those rooms into the lab.

Carefully moving furniture onto the newly cleaned floors.

Those floors are now nicely cleaned thanks to Housekeeping. They have never looked this shiny even when they were new!

Look how shiny it is! Let’s not walk on them yet.

We are so happy to have this work done. We know it took a lot of coordination and time, and the disruption was real for all the departments involved. Thanks to everyone who helped make this happen!

 

 

Media in Books, Revisited

We’ve written before about book publishers’ novel and sometimes misguided attempts at including additional media in bindings (see Robots 1:1). Many new acquisitions to the circulating collection include supplementary images, audio, or video on CD, and they often come to Conservation Services for a pocket that can be physically attached to the book to keep all the parts together.

Night Falls on the Berlin of the Roaring Twenties (2018) is a wonderful graphic exploration of the cultural and technological “golden age” of the Weimar-era, immediately proceeding the rise of National Socialism.  Illustrations by Robert Nippoldt, accompanied by texts from Boris Pofalla (translated by Ida Hattemer-Higgins), profile prominent individuals and places in the city.

To complete the experience, an audio CD of music from that period is included inside the rear board – and here is where the book design really shines.

The rear paste-down features a print of a “cathedral style” table-top radio. The CD is printed to match the design of the radio and mounts to round plastic knob, rather than being stored in a plastic case or paper pocket. The audio track list is printed on the adjoining flyleaf as if it were coming from the radio.

But the best part is when you remove the CD to reveal the vacuum tubes and other internal components of the radio! We like to complain about modern structures and design in book publishing, but in this case they really got it right.

A Mysterious Leather Technique

By Mary Yordy, Senior Conservation Technician

The ghostly, rhythmic creased pattern in the leather covering this volume caught my eye when the set came through the lab for boxing. I wondered how it was done and if the technique had a name. I consulted with coworkers, but no one had seen anything quite like it. This first suggestion of the rarity of the technique was born out by additional efforts to share this image on social media and search down any leads in the literature on leather decoration. I was invited to compose a blog post about this unanswered question, which we present as an invitation to any of our followers who could shed light on the subject.

leather covered book, leather has creases
Front cover with mysterious leather process.

For lack of a known and accepted, term, I am calling the leather effect ‘crazed,’ indicating it’s similarity to finishes seen in ceramics and paint finishes. Inside the volume, the leather around the paste down and the leather hinge material are dark green, so this was presumably the original color of the leather, difficult to determine on the more degraded exterior. The leather must have been given this crazing prior to application to the structure.

marbled paper pastedown and book plate
Front paste down. Was the leather green at one point?

The book is in Russian, v. 3 of an 8 volume set of Works of Pushkin published in St. Petersburg from 1903-1905.  Oddly, only this one volume is full leather with ‘made’ end sheets using an inner hinge of the same leather and paste paper—the volumes before and after v. 3 are quarter bindings using the same leather on the spine and corners with book cloth sides and standard printed end sheets.

A member of a group to which I posted the image shared a photo revealing similar creasing in the leather covering a Spanish binding (Rosy Gray, on Bookbinding Art and Conservation on Facebook). The image she shared was of a much more colorful leather volume, and from an earlier historical period, but looking closely I could see that creasing was indeed part of the effect. She was experimenting to create the effect but had found little to guide her in the available literature.

colorful leather binding
Image from McConnell Fine Books Twitter account.

Most embellishments of leather in binding (such as tree calf) occur after binding, but the crazing of this leather must have occurred prior to the application of the leather. If the methods used in Spanish Calf Marbling of the 17th-18th came more fully to light I suspect this would be true of it as well. Without knowing if I was getting warmer or colder I took the time to track down what information I could find about what is variously termed Pasta Espanola, Spanish Marbling, and Spanish Calf Marbling. English language materials on Spanish bookbinding history are scarce, with just a few examples of this style available for view online and no concrete descriptions of methods.

So the question remains. Has anyone seen this form of leather decoration before? Do you know of a term for it or how it was executed? An interesting question that might follow a definite identification of the technique as Spanish in origin would be how it happened to be used in Russia in the early 20th Century. Dissemination of a technique isn’t always how things come about—sometimes we are seeing completely separate iterations of an idea. It could be worth considering the fact that this volume was bound in a historical period that hosted the International Workingmen’s Association (Second) and various experiments in organizing industrial and trade work across borders, as well as significant industrial strikes.

Mary Yordy, Senior Conservation Technician, is retiring after over 30 years of service to the Libraries, almost 20 of those in Conservation. She leaves us with this unanswered question, and tens of thousands of items that have been repaired or boxed by her hands. You can see the impact of her work on every floor of the library. We will miss her presence in the lab. Thanks Mary! –Beth

Here’s a few of our favorite posts from and about Mary:
Sewing Models: Pandemic Edition
Look it up: The Encyclopedia Britannica 11th edition
Learning Together: Leather repair
10 Years, 10 People: Mary Yordy, Senior Conservation Technician
Preservation Week: Maintaining the circulating collections

Welcome to Our New Intern Justus Jenkins

Justus Jenkins

We would like to welcome Justus Jenkins, our summer HBCU Library Alliance intern. Justus is a student at Claflin University.  He is one of eight students studying preservation this summer through the University of Delaware/HBCU-LA internship program.

This year the program is again being presented online due to COVID-19 restrictions. Interns will be meeting together twice a week with their cohort. Each session will be taught by one of the host sites. We are teaching a class on Archives Conservation Issues, and co-teaching with staff from the Library of Congress to teach some simple bookbinding structures. We will be teaching the Metamorphosis, and this zine.

For his capstone project, Justus has decided to create a portfolio of bookbinding models. Over the next several weeks he will work with Conservation staff to learn Japanese stab bindings, Longstitch binding, Coptic binding, pamphlets, and zines. The University of Delaware sent all eight interns a box of tools and supplies for the term. We put together a box of materials and bookbinding kits and sent that to Justus.

Four completed stab bindings. (photo credit Justus Jenkins)

We started last week with a simple pamphlet, and the Japanese stab bindings.

Yotsume Toji (photo credit Justus Jenkins)

Noble binding (photo credit Justus Jenkins)

Hemp leaf binding (photo credit Justus Jenkins)

Tortoise binding (photo credit Justus Jenkins)

This was the first time I taught a bookbinding class over Zoom. I don’t have a fancy set up at home, but I was able to use a variety of boxes and crates to set up my laptop and phone in a way that worked. I used the laptop camera for my head shot, and set up my phone so that it hovered over the work area. By pinning my “hand cam” and Justus’ cam, I could see both at the same time.

At home set up for teaching online.
First book done! Looks great.

Justus did a great job on his first bindings. He was a patient student as I learned how to do this along with him. We look forward to seeing his next book!

Duke University Libraries Preservation